WHY THEY CHOOSE TO STAY

In the wake of the ongoing conflict in Marawi, there are two options for the people in a battle zone: it is either to flee or to stay behind. Judgement of which is better is not ours to decide, it is for these people. Cowardice and stubbornness could not be associated to one, people weigh their own options, limited as it is during wars.

Most logical they say is to flee. Keep yourself safe, the children, the women and the elderly. So today, in social media it flooded photos of people and families walking under the sun. Those who are fortunately in life has vehicles to take them and those who are not, need to walk to safety, kilometers by kilometers to Iligan or somewhere else, somewhere safe.

I saw photos of infants, children, elderly and the sick, walking among adults and bringing as much things their fragile bodies can hold. I saw the frustrations in their eyes and the fear in their movements. These are the people who never imagine that this calamity will befall their city, our city in this lifetime. Marawi was the safest place for them.

And there are those people who choose to stay. Not because of greed for material things but more because this is what they were used to. One for example are some of my family members.

It offered me small consolation that my parents and siblings are safe as they are living outside Marawi but the rest of my loved ones and friends  are caught up in the conflict. I’ve just learnt this morning that my paternal aunts and uncles after sending their sons and grandsons to safety, choose to stay in their residences which are in one of the concentrated areas of conflict in Marawi. They choose to stay. I was heartbroken but I was not shocked of their decision. I knew they will end up doing it. They are old and stubborn but proud children of Lanao.

But it doesn’t ease my fears as these family members are old people aged from 50-70 years old at most. Yes, they are old and fragile but their mind is as young as that of the seventeen years old. I can’t blame them really. They grew up as part of the generation of those highly dignified Mranao, who fought courageously for family honor, time after time. Once the fire is lit, it’s gonna be  hard to extinguish.

For example, my paternal aunts are the funniest and the most emotional women in my life. But they were also very strong willed women who taught me feminism-hard core. One thing you must have known about the Mranao culture is we have our own ways of keeping and upholding family honor, in term they call it ‘rido’ among families and in old times, families will go to battle field and fight honorably in the grass fields of Lanao. And my aunts were women who were raised during those times, gunshots don’t scare them. They crawl in the battle field with ammunition and food for our fathers and brothers. Most of the times, they were not only medics for our men but they fought side by side with them. All for our families’ honor. And they lived retelling their tales and reminding, the women of our family, that we should grow up as strong as our men and brothers are. We, in some time in the future shall uphold our family honors too. We should be afraid.

These also go to my uncles who were calmer version of our women, soft spoken and dignified tacticians of our families. Together they had been to many battles. But today is a different one and all of us know it. It is no longer a battle for honor, it a war beyond our imagining and beyond our hands. In their former times, they were soldiers for our families but now they are just victims of greater battles played by individuals who have their own agendas. Now, they are just victims of wars who are again left only with two options: either to flee or to stay.

But their strong sense of familial duty passed to them by our forefathers and values they’ve grown up with kept them to stay. I cannot reach them now personally, as they don’t have social media accounts which is my only connection to the Philippines as I am studying abroad. I can only rely to other family members in the country who calls them for me and give me updates. I am afraid of their safety very much and I am afraid that once the batteries of the phones die out and the electricity is gone, we will live every minute just thinking of them, guessing about their safety.

But I will hold on to the fact that God, Allah Subhanallahi wa Ta’ala will keep them and shelter them from harm. And yes, they are the proud and strong willed children of Lanao, they won’t bend nor die easily.

I am just praying that this conflict end sooner than later for most of Mranaos, Marawi is our only home and we will only be calm once we are back.#

 

HOW TO SAVE A LIFE AND HOW I WILL SAVE YOURS

In our generation made up of mostly the lost, lonely, depressed and suicidals comforted by equally scarred, scared and the unknowing people like you and me. This is for us, for you. You can still save someone.

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In my years of working as a social worker and in my capacity living as a normal person, there is one truth about people, I was able to establish over the years. In most cases where some people reached their breaking points in their lives, there were those small things that stopped them from killing themselves literally and figuratively. Maybe an act of kindness from a stranger or simply a call, text, a promise from someone dear to them. Reminders that they still have someone. Simple actions that, can and have save millions of lives. For some people however, the realization comes late, they realized that they could have done something for that person yet again, it’s too late, someone has died and they were left regretting and thinking about the could and would have beens’, the great what ifs’ and if onlys ‘.

By then I promised myself, I don’t want any regrets. I know I cannot control someone else’s destiny, as it is his own to make. But I can control mine. I can entangle him to my web of life, realigning our once separated paths. Allowing me to influence our stars and destinies. And it might, probably and hopefully create a better future for us, and better story for him. For by now, we are one.

And simply, if you happen to read this, remember I am not giving up on you, I won’t. For you are part of me now. Your death is my death. My life is your life. I will live and so you will.  We are one, my love. Allow me to hold you through until you get out of this.#

Two years, two post and two followers

HURRAY! What can be more laughable than that title: Two years, two post and two followers.  That is a grand slam, straight to my fat ego.

Its been two years since I last visited this—my very own blog page,finally recovered my password AGAIN for the zillion times. For two years ,I’ve only written two posts. Those two post were not even divided between those two years  rather I’ve wrote them a week in between each other . I was into it for a month or so, then got busy, forgot my password (normal) and yeah, moved on with  life. Now , I just saw that I only have two followers, one of them is myself. How could that be even possible? You following your self? Such a joke. But then you remember those times you liked (or hearted <3) your own instagram or facebook post . So this is one of those pitiful mistakes.

I constantly mock this self-acclaimed blogger and pity this lonely site for having such a lazy creator. I cannot even promised to be more consistent this time. Well, lets just see in the future. We cross the bridge when we get there, they say or will there be a bridge to start with? Who knows.

However, two years have passed, so fast.  The last article I wrote was about my local trip in my native hometown , the majestic Lanao Del Sur last 2015 and now ,two years after, I am in Denmark, exactly 10,698 km away from Lanao, in another continent, so different from South East Asia. What brought me back to this page? Well i wanted to write travel blogs and tips. As I realized that there are only few Muslim travel bloggers and vloggers, and I think that deserve some actions. I also want to do  the travel vlog thing, but I am not really good at making videos or much more  editing it. Its too complicated for me this time, too much for my brains. I do photographs certainly, but mind telling I haven’t even mastered it. I can’t do manual, still operating on auto mode which could be translated to the ‘mode for dummies with good camera’. So, I decided to work on what I have now. And this is it. Blogging for free.

I want to write again about a lot of things, my biased political stands on current affairs, my travels around Europe and beyond, my living and student life in  five different countries for two years, my best, good, fair and not so good experiences, daily challenges and mostly my random thoughts as woman, a muslim , an asian and all those things that says I am basically part of the minority. I  just realized I needed a platform again to vent my emotions, thoughts, share my experiences and probably inspire others to do the same. I know, we have greater social media platforms, everywhere, and probably blogging is only for the idle men and women  and those in between, who have  a lot of words to say about life that doesn’t fit the word limit of twitter , instagram or facebook.

Yeah, probably blogging is for the idle. But as it is with writing, we don’t blog for others, we blog or write or speak up for ourselves.

So I guess, after two years, two post and two followers—it just nice to write again.

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A three day journey to a land less traveled by

Recently Rappler featured an article of  Mr. Potpot Pinili on  “Exploring Lanao del Sur: 6 things the world is missing out ”. As a native of Lanao, I am in utmost appreciation for his dedication of choosing, experiencing and showing the side of Lanao del Sur that most people don’t get to see and never thought existed. Again, thank you Sir Pinili and thank you Rappler for featuring it.

This article might come as a complimentary notes for his work. The only major difference is that this time it will be told by a local of Lanao, by default at least.

I was born in Marawi City but was raised in Butuan City, Agusan del Norte. I grew up knowing the Balanghai of the historic city rather than knowing the history of torogans of Lanao. I speak Bisaya more fluently and was criticized over my “barok” M’ranaw accent and teased as “balig”: a person who speaks and pronounces the dialect in a wrong manner.  Nevertheless, my parents tried their best to inculcate and remind us of our M’ranaw lineage, they always said that we should never forget that we are “bilang a tao a Ranaw”: refined people of Lanao.

I was able to return to Lanao when I studied college in Mindanao State University-Marawi City. The culture and the people of the arguably Islamic City took me by amazement. By then, wearing a veil became a regular to me. A contrast to way back when I was in Butuan where I wore it only for occasions.

When  I saw the first sight of the Sleeping Lady in the golf course of MSU, it took my breath away. It was splendid beyond words. How the clouds meet up with the mountains and how the lake looks like a serene painting with the sky. For five years, I’ve found that view a source of meditation and comfort. Then, I’ve graduated and worked in an office with a very highly mobile nature. It introduced me to traveling and backpacking. I’ve got the thirst every traveler has, we never want to stop looking for places to visit and discover.

In every travel I had to different places,I always had this baggage  at the back of my mind: the wanderlust to explore Lanao. I’ve been to many places, but sadly I ‘ve never been any closer to my homeland. I only had glances of the Lake yet never been able to swim in it. I only saw the sleeping lady but never been near it.  I have always been in Lanao but honestly, I never knew it entirely.

Then came an invitation. A certain man named Nords Maguindanao initiated a so called Ranaw-Kandilakaw Expedition. “Kandilakaw” means traveling or walking. The expedition invites people to walk through Lanao del Sur: its culture, its history and its beauty. It was a three days’ adventure traversing the lake, the mountains and the municipalities of Lanao del Sur with group of equally passionate individuals doing it for the sake just wanting to do it.575711_1704267456472887_3441584647251913299_n (1).jpg It was holiday season December 28-30,2015. It was the best time or shall I say, for my part- it was the right time. It is time for me to be a M’ranaw and get to know more about Lanao.

Now, let me share to you the best moments during the three days’ trip. Summing it up in seven things a M’ranaw lady discovered, rediscovered, and uncovered about her land for the first time.

1. Mount Baya: The Love Mountains

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Love on Top. Photo courtesy of @drewalonto

I am such a fan of sunsets, and I tell you, you should never miss the sunset in the top of Mount Baya overlooking Lake Dapao. Though you have to climbed 167 smalls steps and uncounted uphill long cemented steps. The climb can be compared to the climb I did to Busuanga Cross and tiring climb to view the Chocolate hills but never did I felt the pull of lying down in the grass and close my eyes and just open it again to muster “Ma shaa Allah” for the beauty that my eyes behold.

Two of our comrades are local of the municipality and were part of the group who made the Eco-tourism project in the mountain, and it was amazing to know that we are the first visitors of the sight. Such an amazing sight yet undiscovered

2. Boating in Lake Dapao 

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Making up for last nights photo-less moments.Clicks everywhere.

 

One of the best moment in the trip was when we transverse Lake Dapao in first evening of our expedition while it was raining and the waves are quite uncalm. No electricity just our boatman, our life vest and yes, some coins to throw to the lake. It was epic: scary but just filled by adrenaline rush. The second best moment was boating in it in the morning.

Lake Dapao is said to be one of the most ancient lake in the country and the said to be the deepest: its bottom never yet reached. And no, it is not part of Lake Lanao. It is a different lake with equally different story and legend.

Camping near the lake with the view of sunrise and the fog just inched floating above the mountain will give you the feels of being abroad. It was scenic. And you can try having a bonfire and horse riding in the fields too, which we did in Labao’s Farm and Sidic Ranch.

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Just woke up pictorials with Lake Dapao and Mt. Baya in the background. Photo courtesy @drewalonto

3.Meet and Greet the Craftsmen of Tugaya

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Of all the municipalities we had visited, it was Tugaya of which  I can say has the hands of the craftsmen. You know for sure that they do arts for living for even simple markers has designs and okir in it. And be prepared to be amazed to meet the real people behind the export quality wood carvings and artworks.

Here you will hear how the arts are passed from generation to generations of artists. And how a certain wood turns to life in a form of the   legendary Sarimanok or the Datus’ Boat.

4. Dive and Snorkel in Ibus Coral Reef, PicongIMG_0683.JPG

Yes, there is a diving sight potential in Lanao del Sur. Unfortunately, we were not able to jump in the water for the lack of equipment, yet the crystal water gives you a glimpse of the untouched marine ecosystem of Ibus. Just looking at it beneath my feet, big and small coral reefs are booming to life almost the same underwater view I had in Coron and Bohol. Though, we only saw few fishes, but I believe that with the quality of corals we saw, I guess we only need to explore the right spot to see them. And there were said rumors of “pawikan” sighting in its shores. That is something probable so next time, make sure you bring your gears.

5. Admire the Intricate Torogans of Lanao

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Artists and non-artists alike will keep on clicking that button to capture the Torogans intricacy.

 

Something unique about the Kandilakaw Expedition was that it has the balanced of nature adventure with historical and cultural immersion.

One of the prides of M’ranaw are its great Torogans. Ramain for one, houses most of the well preserved royal houses. The ancestors’ overlaps wood with woods and more woods in a very astonishing engineering that can withstand earthquakes and time. Most of the Torogans has immensely huge foundations, most are expansive trunk of a big tree which need three people at most to covered its whole width.

Each Torogan has distinct features, some has name like in Taraka, some has incredibly outstanding Okir as the one in Ganassi (my favorite among others) and some with “Lamin”: a special a room where maidens are kept from the world, the way Rapunzel was kept in her tower, saw one in Binidayan. And never forget the UNESCO Heritage Site Torogan: The Torogan of Dayawan.

6. Island Hopping in the Balts

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It still pays to be careful in its water.Don’t take lightly this Ancient Lake. Life vest support from 51IB.

 

Balt is term for an island, and the Lanao Lake houses four balts (not three): The Mala-a Balt (The Big Balt), the Maito-a Balt (Small Balt), the Nusa Island and the S’langan Island.

Hiring a big boat, we were able to hop to the two balts: The Maito and Mala-a Balt. The Mala-a Balt is a good place to swim for it is uninhabited except for some visitors who choose to have picnics in it coming from the smaller balt. Wild ducks and birds are seen flying and swimming in its vicinity. Most part of the Island is not yet explored.

The Maito-a Balt on the other hand has a dynamic community in it. And one thing that you should do there is to walk on its “almost finished’ circumferential road. With it, you can cover the totality of the island, meet the community people and know their lives, see a glimpse of its uninhabited corners having the lake in your left and the trees and huge stones in the right.

Jump into the deep lake with the local kids of 6 years old to ten years old, most of them of better swimming skills than you are. Surely, you’ll have the hang of it.

7. Mountain Trekking in Pagayawan for the Falls of Rainbow

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After effect of the trek. Photo courtesy @drewalonto

One of the hardest part of the expedition was when we climbed the mountain for the sight of the Falls of Rainbow: Kambobolotowa Falls. I am admittedly not the mountain person for I preferred the ocean but with this expedition, we did go to a trailless mountain and good thing, we had amazing Trailblazers with us and a local guide. It took us more than an hour just to reach the falls, and mind telling you, carelessness has no place when you’re in its cliffs. What kept me going was the sound of the rushing and falling waters of the Kambobolotowa, and yes, I had a very helpful stick and comrades with me.

Difficulty level: 5/5 and the Falls, it’s amazing. Among the falls, I’d been too (conquered most of the South Cebu falls), Kambobolotowa Falls was the most unscripted and most untouched among them all and its was the hardest journey I ever took just for the sight of a falls.

My story about the Expedition can go on forever for I still have a lot to talk about the creepy atmosphere in visiting the Omoy’s of Taraka, the Stargazing in Batuan, Balabagan and even my engrossed addiction on the monarahs of the great Masjids of Tugaya, Bab-Ul-Rahman, Bacolod Grande, Madalum and more.ffff.jpg

The three-days expedition as M’ranaw and a woman in this case, gave me a sense of fulfilment as a traveler. Rediscovering my own native land put a seal of completeness to me. I felt like I am now free to roam any place in the world with no regrets or baggage of shame, for I was able to see Lanao, touch Lanao and be one with Lanao. I was never ever prouder to be a M’ranaw not until those three days I was in Lanao with the expedition.

For the increasing numbers of backpackers and travelers be it a Moro or not, I am telling you, you will have a greater appreciation of your travels, once you start in your own place. Discovering ones’ land is both a responsibility and privilege you have. Don’t be a foreigner in your own land. And it is never too late to get connected with you roots.

For anyone who is reading this, Come and visit us in Lanao del Sur.#

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson

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RKE1.The Sarakan Team. #SothatOthersMayFollow.

 

 

THE TRAIN STORY

There was this story about an express train that stopped at a station that is normally skipped, to help a student that boarded the wrong train. Apparently the student did leave home early to make it to his university entrance exam which is given only annually. But torrential rain that is uncommon in the area caused delays in the traffic, so he reached the train station barely in time for the departure of the train and only to find out he took the wrong train. Since he hurriedly boarded the train, the railway company surely couldn’t overlook it.*

If your part of the group that managed operations of this railway company, would you have the train stop at a station normally skipped? Or would you let the train skip the station? Please make a decision.

This time please pause here and go back to the excerpt above. Take time to have your honest opinion of the issue.

(Then proceed.)If your answer is “YES” let’s talk later. I would like to talk to those who said “Ofcourse,NO!” or those who have the flowers to say “ It’s not that I don’t pity the student but I have to say NO…”Regardless of the sweet talk,Yes it’s still a NO. Which I presumed to be your practical choice and the choice of the rest of the majority of intellectuals, professionals, skeptics, law abiding citizens of the Philippines and Oh,never forget the O-Cs.

No because….

  1. It will disrupt the (peace and) order of the universe.One unplanned stop will change the whole system.It might aswell cause train accident or train traffic. For rules are part of the law.And the law says that “The law maybe harsh but it’s still the damn law!”
  2. It’s a case of one vs the rest of the commuters. Utilitarianism Principle.Greatest Good to the Greatest Number.Majority Rules.Minority follows.End of discussion.
  3. If we allow it once,many people will follow.It will be a precedent to future of pleads and request of commuters who will voluntarily or involuntarily took the wrong train and who need or want to get out of the train on their own whims. It will become a tradition and a habit.And habits are hard to break.
  4. All of the above
  5. You’ve got a better reason that is close to the ones above but better stated and arranged than that of the writer’s choices.

Bulls-eye? Wait, I am no psychic here and these were the same reasons that my colleagues had also said(except I’ve oversimplified and dramatized it ) and probably the same reasons that will bother the rest of those who answered “Yes”.

Caught you smiling there,probably you’re one of the “Yes” people.The people of the light.The people of hope and positivism.The one critiqued of using their heart over their minds.The group which are dominantly composed of the mothers who always  have the what-if-that-was-my-child syndrome,the elders who had live long enough to realized that there is more to life than rules,the activist,the human rights advocate,the social workers and the rest of the commuters who also have the syndrome of what-if-that-was-me.For the “Yes” people, blessed are you folks.

Now,lets move to the next exercise. Let’s us move to the more crucial issue.Let’s try to change the actors. Let us digest the case using the infamous Bangsamoro Basic Law.

What if the student is the Bangsamoro and the BBL and you have the chance to ask the the driver,will you ask him to stop for it and  give it a chance?Will you still answer “YES” or will you change to “NO” and for the “NO” will you answer the other way or still stay as is?

Let us repeat the routine.

This time please pause here and go back to the excerpt above.Take time to have your honest opinion of the issue.(Then proceed.)

I won’t ask for your answers. Keep it. For I am a bangsamoro and it might break my heart. Won’t it?

I won’t talk about the technicalities of BBL, you know more right? You have read the entirety of the draft bill, didn’t you? That was XVIII Articles excluding the preamble with 99 pages, wasn’t it? It was drafted by BTC and not solely by the MILF or OPAPP, right?

If you’re answer is dominantly NO (which is wrong), you still know more, right?

I won’t ask for your answers. Keep it. For I am a bangsamoro and it might break my heart. Won’t it?

Yes,the train is the Philippines. Its heading to its desired destination. Taking the “tuwid na landas” railroad. The driver is the government composed of the President, the Congress and the Supreme Court. The Bangsamoro and the BBL is that student. And you are one of the commuters in that train.

The Bangsamoro and the BBL took the train, gasp all air and courage it can have. Took a leap of faith, brought with him bags of agreements and promises, believed once again in the humanity of the rest of the Filipinos and the sincerity of the government. Prayed for a chance. It fought its way to the driver(the government) then bargained and negotiated for them to be given genuine autonomy.

You were one of those who heard the negotiations, you were one of those who will also be affected but not big as to the extent the student will be. You were there. You know for sure that your voice can affect the choice of the driver. You know that he won’t act without your consent.

For in the end, the government is just your representative. You are the boss.
What will you do? Will you stop for us, will you give us a chance? Will you give peace a chance?

Now,I want your answer. Say it. For I am a Bangsamoro…also a Filipino. And I am hoping that you won’t break my heart. Or will you?

*The ownership, intellectual property rights such as copyright, and all other rights concerning the above story excerpt material shall belong to the author, Joji Nakaya.

For just like in a railway,in the peace process,the country must learn to STOP,LOOK and LISTEN.
For just like in a railway,in the peace process,the country must learn to STOP,LOOK and LISTEN.